|image courtesy of the cbc|
notably, u.s. news giant cnn and al-jazeera [whose international news coverage has replaced the bbc as my go-to] picked the story up on both television and the web. while al-jazeera stuck strictly to a reporting of the facts, cnn anchors, notably plucky new evening host erin burnett and stalwart anderson cooper, were quick to emphasise the disgusting implications of murdering family members because of seemingly archaic notions of honour.
although the family plans to appeal, all three of the accused were convicted this week of the murders of the three shafia daughters and mohammed shafia's first wife, to whom he had quietly remained married in canada, despite the fact that polygamy is illegal here. many of us who were following the trial were relieved to hear this. despite the fact that the prosecution were able to establish only a tenuous physical link between the defendants and the crime and relied heavily on circumstantial evidence about life in the shafia household and surreptitious recordings made of the family in the wake of the deaths, most canadians, myself included, had concluded that the parents and son were guilty.
in the end, it was the father's words that truly condemned them all. the most inflammatory of his statements- calling his daughters whores, saying that he regretted nothing [without specifying exactly what he might have to regret] and, most infamously exclaiming "may the devil shit on their graves"- were quoted ad nauseum in virtually every report on the case and turned a latent sense of suspicion about the attitudes of muslims towards woman into an indignant fury.
|image courtesy of the montreal gazette|
so we're agreed: it's a good thing that he and his accomplices were convicted.
except it isn't. it's a just thing, but not good, which is an important distinction. the three shafia daughters and the first wife, who apparently tried to serve as their advocate within the family are still dead and were never able to escape the tyranny of the place they had to call home. their abbreviated lives were marked by fear and by a conflict of cultures that pitted their westernised desire for independence against their bond to their family.
despite repeated and passionate imprecations to the contrary by muslim scholars, officials and educated observers, the case serves to feed suspicions in canada and, as a result of the wide media coverage, internationally, that there is a barbarism to islam not present in other religions. this is the equivalent of judging all christians by the standards of jehovah's witnesses, a group known for their rigidity and often brutal treatment of community members who stray from the flock. they nominally follow the same religion, but the bulk of members condemn their extremism without a second thought.
what's worse is that the propagation of this kind of xenophobia makes it possible for legislators in many western countries to earn cheap points with their electorate by trying to ban face coverings or insisting that there is an imminent danger of the imposition of sharia law in canada. this sort of hysterical misdirection makes good headlines and distracts from real problems and misdeeds, as those in government are well aware.
and in the end, none of the three convicted have shown any sense of remorse over their actions. if we believe, as the jury did, that the father was referring to the murder when he said that, were they to come back to life, he would do the same thing a hundred times over, they are about as far removed from a sense of guilt as possible. the idea that parents would value their own sense of honour over the lives of their children seems antithetical to our most rudimentary drive- to survive and allow our species to flourish.
so, yes, i think that the jury reached the right conclusion. even in the absence of a confession, the truth speaks through the voices of the killers themselves. but it isn't a good thing. not for canadians, not for muslims, not for the broader audience worldwide and not even for the shafia family.